Annotation of wikisrc/guide/intro.mdwn, revision 1.6

1.3       jdf         1: **Contents**
                      3: [[!toc levels=3]]
1.1       jdf         5: # What is NetBSD?
1.2       jdf         7: NetBSD is a free, fast, secure, and highly portable Unix-like Open Source
                      8: operating system. It is available for many platforms, from 64-bit x86 servers
                      9: and PC desktop systems to embedded ARM and MIPS based devices. Its clean design
                     10: and advanced features make it excellent in both production and research
                     11: environments, and it is user-supported with complete source. Many applications
1.4       sevan      12: are easily available through [pkgsrc](, the NetBSD Packages Collection.
1.1       jdf        13: 
                     14: ## The story of NetBSD
1.2       jdf        16: The first version of NetBSD (0.8) dates back to 1993 and springs from the 4.3BSD
                     17: Lite operating system, a version of Unix developed at the University of
                     18: California, Berkeley (BSD = Berkeley Software Distribution), and from the 386BSD
                     19: system, the first BSD port to the Intel 386 CPU. In the following years,
                     20: modifications from the 4.4BSD Lite release (the last release from the Berkeley
                     21: group) were integrated into the system. The BSD branch of Unix has had a great
                     22: importance and influence on the history of Unix-like operating systems, to which
                     23: it has contributed many tools, ideas and improvements which are now standard:
                     24: the vi editor, the C shell, job control, the Berkeley fast file system, reliable
                     25: signals, support for virtual memory and TCP/IP, just to name a few. This
                     26: tradition of research and development survives today in the BSD systems and, in
1.1       jdf        27: particular, in NetBSD.
                     29: ## NetBSD features
1.2       jdf        31: NetBSD operates on a vast range of hardware platforms and is very portable. The
                     32: full source to the NetBSD kernel and userland is available for all the supported
                     33: platforms; please see the details on the official site of the [NetBSD
1.1       jdf        34: Project](
1.2       jdf        36: A detailed list of NetBSD features can be found at:
1.6     ! cnst       37: <>.
1.1       jdf        38: 
                     39: The basic features of NetBSD are:
                     41:  * Code quality and correctness
                     42:  * Portability to a wide range of hardware
                     43:  * Secure defaults
                     44:  * Adherence to industry standards
                     45:  * Research and innovation
1.2       jdf        47: These characteristics bring also indirect advantages. For example, if you work
                     48: on just one platform you could think that you're not interested in portability.
                     49: But portability is tied to code quality; without a well written and well
                     50: organized code base it would be impossible to support a large number of
                     51: platforms. And code quality is the base of any good and solid software system,
1.1       jdf        52: though surprisingly few people seem to understand it.
1.2       jdf        54: One of the key characteristics of NetBSD is that its developers are not
                     55: satisfied with partial implementations. Some systems seem to have the philosophy
                     56: of *If it works, it's right.* In that light NetBSD's philosophy could be
                     57: described as *It doesn't work unless it's right*. Think about how many
1.1       jdf        58: overgrown programs are collapsing under their own weight and "features"
                     59: and you'll understand why NetBSD tries to avoid this situation at all costs.
                     61: ## Supported platforms
1.2       jdf        63: NetBSD supports many platforms, including the popular PC platform (i386 and
1.5       sevan      64: amd64), ARM, SPARC and UltraSPARC, Alpha, Amiga, Atari, and m68k and PowerPC based
1.1       jdf        65: Apple Macintosh machines. Technical details for all of them can be found on
                     66: [the NetBSD site](
                     68: ## NetBSD's target users
1.2       jdf        70: The NetBSD site states that: *The NetBSD Project provides a freely available and
                     71: redistributable system that professionals, hobbyists, and researchers can use in
                     72: whatever manner they wish*. It is also an ideal system if you want to learn
                     73: Unix, mainly because of its adherence to standards (one of the project goals)
                     74: and because it works equally well on the latest PC hardware as well as on
                     75: hardware which is considered obsolete by many other operating systems. To learn
                     76: and use Unix you don't need to buy expensive hardware; you can use that old PC
                     77: or Mac in your attic. It is important to note that although NetBSD runs on old
                     78: hardware, modern hardware is well supported and care has been taken to ensure
                     79: that supporting old machines does not inhibit performance on modern hardware. In
                     80: addition, if you need a Unix system which runs consistently on a variety of
1.1       jdf        81: platforms, NetBSD is probably your best choice.
                     83: ## Applications for NetBSD
1.2       jdf        85: Aside from the standard Unix productivity tools, editors, formatters, C/C++
                     86: compilers and debuggers and so on that are included with the base system, there
1.5       sevan      87: is a huge collection of packages (currently over 18,000) that can be installed
1.2       jdf        88: both from source and in pre-compiled form. All the packages that you expect to
                     89: find on a well configured system are available for NetBSD for free. The
                     90: framework that makes this possible, pkgsrc, also includes a number of commercial
                     91: applications. In addition, NetBSD provides binary emulation for various other
                     92: \*nix operating systems, allowing you to run non-native applications. Linux
                     93: emulation is probably the most relevant example. You can run the Linux versions
1.1       jdf        94: of
1.5       sevan      96:  * Matlab
1.1       jdf        97:  * the Adobe Flash player plugin
                     98:  * Acrobat Reader
                     99:  * many other programs
                    101: ## How to get NetBSD
1.2       jdf       103: NetBSD is an Open Source operating system, and as such it is freely available
1.5       sevan     104: for download from []( and its
1.1       jdf       105: [mirrors](

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